Yes, I know I am over dramatic. But when your newly-tuned and strung bow suddenly starts shredding arrows at 7 pm on September 30, you get a pass. Dramatics are called for and hushed tones are used to soothe the frantic soul on the other end of the riser as she beelines it to the bow shop before closing time with the "patient" in stable but critical condition in the backseat. No self-respecting McDonough County deputy would even think about giving me a speeding ticket under those circumstances - a police escort to 1025 W. Grant Street would probably be more appropriate.
I had a fair guess as to the malady - a malfunctioning drop away rest was my informal diagnosis, but I lack the technical skills to do anything about the situation. I cursed my idiocy for not testing the string earlier, for letting work get in the way of sport and taking it for granted that my Halon 6 would be just fine after her makeover. I knew better, and this is how my foolishness would be repaid - potentially sitting out Opening Day hunts as a cold front moves through and harvest is in full swing. The bitter injustice gnawed at my brain as I pulled in to the parking lot and burst through the door, a whirlwind of windblown hair, mismatched socks, and a release still clipped around my wrist and forgotten in my haste to make it to the shop before closing.
What stopped me in my tracks was the volume of people in the modest shop showroom at Crooked Creek Outdoors. Some were shopping for new equipment, some were desperately seeking last-minute repairs, and others were swapping stories and trail cam pictures as the minutes standing between them and daybreak slipped away into the dark. Employees looked beat, yet upbeat, and the air hummed with an energy that had been steadily building as temperatures slowly swung from hot and humid to cool and crisp. Our Huntsmas Eve had arrived, and I was in the midst of the bow shop equivalent of shopping for gifts on December 24.
Greg, the shop owner, and Clyde, the bow guru, deftly answered questions and switched from sales to service like a well-oiled machine. With a little assistance from the part-time help, my suspicions were confirmed, my rest was adjusted, and the whole rig was paper-tuned to perfection within 15 minutes. As the crowd thinned near closing time, we settled around the arrow counter to finish fletchings and recount memories of the busiest day of the year. This night showed a steady stream of people, busy for certain but not a circus like some years. Every customer had a story, inside knowledge, or hit list buck picture to share as our community of bowhunters emerged from a summer spent in campers and boats to return to the woods in search of the next booner for the wall or doe for the freezer. The bow shop becomes our fall headquarters to boast and bitch (depending on the situation) and get better at what we do through their expert tips and tweaks. Collectively, we feel the pain of every missed shot and celebrate the ethical harvest of every animal - even more so if you bring in your trophy straight from the field so we can "ooh" and "ahhh" at it in the bed of your truck. Have deer sticks to share, straight from the butcher? Yes please, I'll take two.
For all of these reasons and many, many more, the bow shop is an incredible place to be, more fulfilling to me than a gym, easier on my liver than a bar. Our year kicks off tomorrow, and none of us could enter the woods without the work that is done for us by the local bow shops. As the paper tear straightened from nock low to dead on bullet, I could feel my blood pressure relax and my heart rate return to normal. A true Huntsmas Miracle had been performed, and from the looks of the crowd tonight, many of us need to be setting out cookies and milk (or SoCo and pecan pie, if you please) as an offering for the expert men and women who support us getting to the stand in the morning. Here's to you, Mr. Archery Pro Shop Man! This Bud is for You!